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Intro to house photos

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In the autumn of 2003 we landed in Maine aboard DRIVER. We rented a house in Round Pond, found jobs, put the kids in school, and began a new life in a new place. (See our book "Into the Light" for details on our voyage north and our predisposition to move from place to place.)

The realtor who rented the house to us became a friend, and when we mentioned we might be interested in buying a house she told us about 25 acres of forest that was coming up for sale. Land? Did we want to build a house? What did we know about building a house? NOTHING. Two months later, after walking the property lines for the first time, we took possession of this land. Actually, the land completely took possession of us, and that was that. There was no structure on it, no driveway, water, septic, or power. Nowhere to park the car.

The town in which we bought the property has building cap restrictions, and they only issue 8 building permits a year. When we first saw the land there were 4 permits left. But, by the time we closed the deal, the permits were all gone. That meant instead of being able to begin construction January 1st 2004, we had to wait until 2005. A whole year.

Eventually, we got used to this set back. It was typical of us to buy something we could not use. In April 2004 the town office called and told us a building permit had come up due to a cancellation. We were first on the waiting list. Scramble. We found a contractor that we liked and met with John on a rainy Sunday. Jaja and I had selected a building location that was two tenths of a mile in from the road. John asked to see our plans. All we had were some detailed sketches. I told him that in Bremen blue prints weren't mandatory. He agreed to build the foundations for the house and garage, the septic field, and to surface the road which Jaja, Chris, and I had previously surveyed and cleared.

John started the project in mid August. Meanwhile,we had moved back aboard DRIVER for the summer. (Summer rental rates were outrageous.) Our PLAN was to build the garage first and live there for the winter, then begin house construction the following spring, 2005. All went according to plan, eventually.

Aside from boat interiors and tree houses, I had never build a house, or anything like it. Prior to building, I drove around to construction sites and made notes on how the framing went together. It all seemed logical.

We went Hunt Lumber and Sawmill in Jefferson, sat with a salesman, and ordered what we thought were all the materials to build the garage.

"Hi my name is Dave, this is my wife Jaja, we're building a house."

"Uh Huh"

"We need some wood."

"How much wood?"

"Oh, I don know, a couple hundred two by sixes ought to do it..."

We placed our order, complete with windows, shingles, doors and nails. We went home and waited for delivery. After 4 days of no wood showing up I called to speak with the salesman, Jim. I already had taken time off from work and was getting frantic as my time was slipping away.

"Can I speak with Jim?"

"Jim is no longer with us."

"I placed an order for some wood."

"Do you have an order number?"


"I do not see your name in our system. I don't think this order was ever placed. Would you like to reorder?'

"Jim had all my notes. Can I ask a question?"


"Did Jim get fired, or, you know, is he no longer with us?"

"Uh, the first one."

"Too bad. OK, I'll get back to you."

I sat with paper and calculator and figured out all the material we'd need. Once again I could not believe that so many two by sixes were required so I under ordered. In the end I needed more than I thought. Way more.

We finally began construction. Jaja and I framed the first wall while it was laying on the ground, just like I'd seen the pro's do it. Then we tried to tip it up...but it was much too heavy. Using a 12 foot log as a lever arm I tied a rope to the to the bumper of the truck. I drove ahead slowly and watched the wall rise up in the air majestically (I had put a safety rope on the wall so that it would not fall over the other way.)

Jaja and I gave each other a high five. We braced the wall and removed the ropes. I was feeling very cocky (look at me...I am building a house...) Using my new 40 ounce shiny hammer I attempted to drive the last nail in place but missed the nail and hit the middle finger on my left hand. The waffle pattern left an interesting imprint. There was blood everywhere.

Jaja: Come on. I'm taking you to emergency.

Dave: No really, my finger is fine.

Jaja: Let me see it.

I grabbed the tip of my finger and gave it a wiggle. Broken.

Dave: I can drive myself.

Five stitches later and we were under way again. Carrying lumber with a broken finger takes practice. I taped a piece of rubber hose over the end of my finger to keep it from getting banged, which happened about 7 times a minute, on average.

In six weeks the garage was finished. To us, this meant it had a roof, windows, a door, and a wood stove. Shelter. I bought a book on plumbing and set to work installing the toilet. I learned that you need a special pipe, called a vent stack. It sticks out of the roof to provide air to the pipes so that water will flow properly. I had to cut a hole in the ceiling then rip up a section of brand new roof shingles to install the vent.

We built the garage using a generator. We were too far from the main road to get power unless we put in three or four power poles. Expensive. So our new living quarters had no 110 volt electricity and no hot water. I installed propane lights, and a propane stove. We had two batteries, some 12 volt lights, and a couple solar panels. A few months later I upgraded the solar system with a 2500W inverter and more solar panels. To get water we had to start the generator to power the well pump. When the water was flowing we would fill our 50 gallon barrels which sat in the corner. Our three barrels lasted about a week. We used a 12 volt pump to push to water up to the toilet tank and the kitchen sink. It's wasn't sophisticated but it worked. The week after we moved in (November 7th) we got our first snow storm. Our wood stove kept us warm and cozy. The land journey has begun.

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